As many of you will be aware, The Royal Shakespeare Company will commence global cinema broadcasts of live performances from Stratford with ‘Richard II’, directed by Greg Doran with David Tennant in the title role on 13th November at cinemas fairly near you. (Book early to avoid disappointment!!!) There have been some announcements about their service which we think worth reporting on.
The RSC joins the National Theatre, and The Globe, both from London, in broadcasting live performances of Shakespeare (and other) plays.
The key question for such services is how big is the cinema network that they are supporting. The RSC network is substantial (around 50 US locations, 250 UK locations, and reasonable coverage in Canada, Russia and Sweden. This is a long way behind the National Theatre network, who have around 140 US outlets, 350 UK outlets, and many more European and English-speaking countries covered, but more than enough for the launch of their services. No doubt they plan to grow the Network as fast as possible.
The RSC service differs from the National Theatre service in that it seems to go much wider, than the National Theatre’s offering, incorporating:
- Global Live performance broadcasts ‘to a cinema near you’
- Educational broadcasts, aimed at schools
- The RSC Open Stages programme aimed at Community theatre groups
We’ll comment on each of these in turn below, but before we do so, here’s a trailer for the RSC Richard II production. It is followed by a number of clips relating to the production. Of particular interest, is the interview with Greg Doran.
Now, let’s return to the RSC offering:
- Global Live performance broadcasts:
Note that these dates are UK dates, and may vary in other parts of the world due to the time shift. Check your local cinema (see below)
The RSC are also collaborating with The Public Theater, New York and GableStage, Miami to produce ‘Anthony and Cleopatra in Stratford (Swan Theatre 7 – 30 November 2013), Miami (Colony Theatre, Miami Beach 9 January – 9 February 2014) and New York (The Public Theater’s Anspacher Theater 18 February – 23 March 2014). These are however, conventional theatre productions in a theatre.
- Educational broadcasts (part of Young Shakespeare Nation)
Associated with the global broadcasts, the RSC will be providing broadcasts of Richard II to schools. This is primarily aimed at UK schools, but schools from other areas can apply. However, if you are planning to register from a school outside the UK, please note that the broadcast will only be available to watch from 9:30 GMT on Friday 15th November. It cannot be downloaded or accessed at a later time or date. Whilst this may be useful for countries who are ‘ahead’ of the UK in clock time, it may introduce a whole new meaning to the term ‘sleep-over’ in the US ( 🙂 ). You can register for the school’s broadcast of Richard II, whether a school in the UK, or elsewhere in the world at the RSC’s Schools Registration Page.
Note that in addition to the broadcast the RSC supplies a number of resources for teachers, including: three teacher’s packs, production videos, etc.
- RSC Open Stages
Slightly to one side of these broadcast services is the RSC’s Open Stages programme, aimed at supporting Community Theatre Groups.
I had the great pleasure of being involved in the first phase of this programme, with a community theatre group in the South of Scotland and learnt a lot, had enormous fun, at workshops in Glasgow. It has influenced the ‘Modern First Folio Edition’ more than somewhat, and I still look back with fondness to the support the RSC gave to our production of ‘Twelfth Night’ and a small ‘Shakespeare Fair’ we ran.
The programme continues, with the second phase of the programme supporting 100 community theatre groups through 2014 to 2016 with still more intensive support, particularly aimed at improving the skills of community theatre directors, and their casts. This, no doubt, will lead to higher quality shows throughout the UK community theatre sector.
As far as we are aware this programme is limited to community theatre groups in the UK.
So the RSC’s engagement with ‘Global Theatre’ goes beyond live cinema broadcasts around the world, to include education for school children, and support for community theatre groups. It will be interesting to see how it develops.
When you add this to the involvement of the National Theatre with NT-Live, and The Globe’s broadcasts, it is clear that there is a lot going on. As well as the high-quality Shakespeare productions we can all see, it must transform the economics of play production when audience sizes can move from hundreds, to at least tens of thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands, even if only on ‘broadcast’ nights.
There are those who worry about the impact this will have on ‘local’ theatre, and community theatre. Our view is that the increase in quality of the productions we can see far outweighs the impact on local theatre. From a purely selfish perspective, as a UK taxpayer who helps to fund the National Theatre and the RSC, it seems only appropriate that I should be able to see the shows they put on, without having to traipse my way to London or Stratford. I am more than happy that people in other parts of the world can see those shows, knowing that they are helping to fund the development of both those organisations.
This ‘global theatre’ trend is something we propose to follow closely. We already:
- Provide a calendar of Global Theatre Events with links to the RSC, Globe, and NT-Live networks of cinemas.
- We provide ‘reminders’ of forthcoming Global shows (though this doesn’t stop you needing to book ahead – these shows are popular)
- We have started to review these shows and plan to cover as many as possible
We are particularly pleased that the RSC has followed our lead ( 🙂 ) in choosing the Henriad to start its global broadcasts with. We have just run our first play-reading… of Richard II (and you can download the play-reading pack). We plan further play-readings of Henry IV Part I and Part II (and Henry V) later this year and will be publishing play-reading packs of those plays before the RSC’s global viewings, so you can study the play through play-readings, before going, all together to see the RSC version.
If you want to keep in touch with our take on ‘Global Shakespeare Shows’ and be reminded of forthcoming shows:
- Register to receive our blogs at your email address (see top RH corner of this page)
- ‘Like’ our Facebook page
- Or visit our web-site (players-shakespeare.com) regularly
(you can find us by Googling ‘Shakespeare MFFE’)
It is exciting times for lovers of live performance of Shakespeare! Let’s explore them together!